This is the second level inquiry I am working on for WEM project. The first one is here, and this would be the last stage I’m going to post; I must skip the third level for all plays because it requires us to re-make the play in our own style (I don’t think it necessary for me; and I don’t have time for that either).
By what the play is given unity?
It’s given unity by faith, or in this case, by lack of faith. It is all, from the beginning, about how people think about what/who had led Joan to do what she has done. Was she inspired by God, or by the devil? Was it heresy or God’s act? And in the end, did Joan deserve to be accepted as Saint? So, I think it’s all about faith.
What does each character stand for?
There are three sides of main characters here: Joan; they who opposed her (people from the Church—ironically!); and they who befriended her (Charles, Dunois). Let’s take a look at each of the group:
Joan stands for simple minded people who only hold on God’s will, and put God above all. It is the simple-mindedness which can accept divine idea.
The Church authority (Bishop, Archbishop, Chaplain) stands for proud people in higher position who praise themselves as the most powerful servants of God, and thus their opinion are certainly those of God. They put their own pride over God, and that’s why God didn’t reveal the divine truth to them.
Joan’s friends (Charles and Dunois) stand for people who take God seriously only when He would grant their wishes. Charles and Dunois both believed in Joan because they have seen the miracles which answered their prayers. When the same God (through Joan) asked them to do more fight, they were reluctant because they no longer needed His help. They only want to take but refuse to give.
Do any of the characters stand in opposition to each other?
Yes, in the case of Joan and the Church authority, as above mentioned. The Church authority here reminds me a lot of the Pharisees, they both had misconception about being faithful to God.
How do the characters speak?
Here I only pick two characters that are most contradictory: Joan and the Archbishop.
Joan’s words show that she is a simple and honest girl; she speaks boldly and innocently, but always full of virtues. Exp: [her eyes skyward] “I have better friends and better counsel than yours”.
The Archbishop is proud, arrogant, feels that he’s always right, and anyone opposes him must be wrong. Exp: “The voice of God on earth is the voice of the Church Militant; and all the voices that come to you are the echoes of your own willfulness.”
Does the playwright lead you into a satisfying resolution?
No; and that’s what makes this play was categorized in tragedy. The real tragedy is not because Joan was burnt to death (for Saints, death is just the mean of being united with God), but because after what had happened, people still could not accept their Saint. That is the real tragedy!
What is the play’s theme?
I think Shaw wanted to criticize how difficult it is for humankind to understand God’s will and to accept it humbly. From the beginning of the play, people got to believe in Joan only after they saw some miracles done; a proof that justified what was told them (Thomas all over again: ‘Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe’?). And from the Church authority we see that knowledge often veiled soul to understand the real truth; that God’s divines can only be seen with simple and humble heart.